In a rare public statement while in Japan, Secretary of State Tillerson said: “I think it’s important to recognize that the political and diplomatic efforts of the past 20 years to bring North Korea to the point of denuclearization have failed. . . . In the face of this ever-escalating threat, it is clear that a different approach is required. Part of the purpose of my visit to the region is to exchange views on a new approach.” Tillerson’s comment is little different from the position of previous administrations on North Korea to the effect that the US has “tried everything” and run out of negotiating options. That posture is simply, and dangerously, untrue: the consistent US “negotiating” position has been “disarm first, then we’ll talk.” There have been precious few direct talks with North Korean officials, no dialogue with top leaders since the Clinton administration, and ongoing military exercises and deployments such as THAAD. Nor has the US accepted North Korean offers to talk “without preconditions.” So what has failed is US diplomatic creativity, which won’t be helped by the just-announced 29 percent cut in the State Department budget. What comes next—“a new approach”—could well be more sanctions and military pressure, which are sure to edge us closer to war with North Korea.